The new president of COP28 has called for a tripling of renewable energy generation by 2030 while highlighting the need for oil and gas from the “least carbon intensive producers”, following his controversial appointment to lead this year’s UN climate summit.
Sultan al-Jaber, chief executive of state-owned Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, was appointed to the role by host country the United Arab Emirates earlier this week. In a speech on Saturday he said the world was “way off track” to meet its climate goals and was “playing catch-up”.
The Paris climate accord, signed by nearly 200 countries, commits nations to limit warming to 2C and ideally 1.5C above pre-industrial levels by 2100. Last year was the fifth warmest on record, top EU and US scientists concluded this month.
In order to rapidly slash greenhouse gas emissions, the world must triple renewable energy generation by 2030 and “more than double” the production of “low carbon hydrogen”, Jaber said.
The International Energy Agency, the International Renewable Energy Agency and the UN said last year in a joint report that the world would need to add four times the amount of renewable energy that was deployed in 2021 every year by 2030 to avoid catastrophic climate change. No new oil, gas or coal production is necessary for the world to limit global warming, the IEA has warned.
Jaber’s appointment provoked a backlash from climate experts, who said his position at the helm of Adnoc presented a conflict of interest and raised concerns that the host country of COP28 may undermine efforts to reduce the global production and use of fossil fuels.
Jaber defended the UAE’s credentials, positioning the country as a leader in its peer group. It was the first country in the region to commit to the Paris Agreement and the first to set out a road map to net zero emissions, he said.
Masdar, the renewable energy company that Jaber launched in 2006, was also a regional pioneer, and was aiming for a 100GW portfolio by 2030, he said in a speech at the Atlantic Council Global Energy Forum.
Jaber argued that one solution to mitigating climate change, alongside a rapid acceleration of renewable energy production, was the use of the “least carbon intensive oil and gas”, and stressed the need for a “just transition that leaves no one behind.”
The UAE and Saudi Arabia, both leading Opec members, are vying to be the countries that sell the last barrels of oil as demand for the fuel falls, claiming that their production processes are less emissions intensive per barrel than those of other nations.
Emissions intensity measures are relative to output, and allow for the continued rise of absolute emissions and ongoing fossil fuel production.
Last year’s COP summit hosted by Egypt ended in disappointment for climate activists and many developed and developing nations alike.
Countries including Saudi Arabia and Russia blocked an effort by a broad coalition including the EU and US to include a reference to phasing down all fossil fuels in the deal agreed at the summit.
Jaber said he wanted this year’s summit to be about making progress on key issues including mitigating and adapting to climate change.
He called for the summit, which will begin in November, to be a “practical COP” and one of “action”.
“I am here to listen and engage,” he said. “I urge all parties to help make COP28 a COP of concrete outcomes and practical solutions.”
COP27 also drew repeated criticism from civil society groups and human rights advocates who said the Egyptian presidency did not allow any more than very limited opportunities for protests, and did not make those who would otherwise have demonstrated feel safe.
UAE officials have insisted they will facilitate protest and welcome all voices seeking climate change solutions.
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